Photo by Muffy Aldrich
The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Monday, March 27, 2023

Garden Tools

Photos by Salt Water New England
When asked about essential garden tools and the best places to get them, readers have suggested the following:
I may be frugal in a lot of ways, but I have learned that you have to invest in a good pair of loppers and shears. (Bob NOLA)
Felco pruning shears (they even have a left-handed version!). I bought mine at Amazon but that's because I live in rural NC and nobody around had them. I get my heirloom seeds a good hardware or garden store (there are 2 in the town where I work). I still have some garden tools from my husband's grandfather (including a lovely hoe, which I admit I use more to poke a bonfire than I use in my raised bed vegetable gardens). Ergonomic trowel (from a box store) probably one of my favorites but sadly it doesn't last very long. If I could find the new design in high quality construction, I'd be thrilled! (Hoya)
A good pair of gloves with a nice gauntlet is helpful. Saves arm and hand scratches. good pruning shears are a must. (mary anne)
My favorite tools are my Felco 2 pruners, a Smith Hawken telescoping ratchet lopper, and a circle hoe.  (Joyce North)
I ran a small field-grown, perennial nursery from our home. My customers were always asking for recommendations of tools and such. My list is surprisingly small and affordable.
  • Felco Bypass Pruners
  • Felco Bypass Loppers
  • Small “nippers” for delicate trimming.
  • Kitchen string
  • Auger attachment for cordless drill which is perfect for mass planting of bulbs.
  • Deluxe soil knife w/serrated edge, replaces my late father’s hunting knives. Can be found at:
  • Atlas Gloves, the best overall gloves out there. They are machine washable and inexpensive.
  • Heavy duty, leather work gloves for all seasons and available in women’s sizes. Can be found at:
  • Muck shoes, high & low
  • Hoe, edger, and pointed shovel, inherited.
  • Hula Hoe, perfect to maintain inside edging.
  • Spear & Jackson Spade from England. This was my splurge, and well worth it.
  • Good, sturdy wheelbarrow    (Laurie Ann)  
To escape a sudden downpour at the Chelsea Flower Show last May, my husband and I ducked in to the Sneeboer <> tool tent. We've been gardening for 30 years together and inherited many of my English husband's grandfather's tools -- but had never seen anything like the quality of the Sneeboer, nor their breadth of offerings. Made in the Netherlands, they sell tools here through several distributors and online. I do NOT work for the company, but I would. Stout, heirloom quality equipment. The hand trowel I bought that day (the only piece I could fit in my luggage) stands up to the ubiquitous "Connecticut Potato" better than anything else we've ever used. As our inferior quality pieces wear out, we will be replacing them with Sneeboer tools. Can't wait.  (Flatlander)
I have two garden tools I go to again and again - an old hand-held weeding fork/claw made by Snow & Nealley (a once-great Maine tool company which has recently been bought by some Amish people in Smyrna, Maine, so perhaps they will start making other tools again besides just axes...?), and a small garden hoe I bought at a yard sale. The hoe is old and has a forged head and a long lightweight wooden handle - it's a total pleasure to use. I also forgo wheelbarrows and garden carts and just use a tarp instead. Toss the weeds on it, then drag the whole thing back to the compost pile. I'd wholeheartedly recommend Fedco for seeds, plants, and tools - <> they really know their stuff and their great annual catalogs have much more. (Sarah Faragher)
My favorite "tool" is my Ford 2610 tractor aka "Babe, the Blue Ox," which I acquired two years ago and which may see hard use in the coming months. Our meadows have been farmed for years by locals eager for extra space to grow hay, buckwheat, cattle corn, even pumpkins until the last fellow, a wonderful organic farmer growing a variety of vegetables, went belly up for lack of customers. Now the onus is on me and my Ford Tractor unless I can find a new farmer who would like to use the land to grow crops. This hope seems difficult to fulfill in an area where farmers with a need for a little extra land are becoming scarcer every year. (Hearthstone Farm)
Rogue Hoe Company makes a variety of excellent hoes and rakes, including a hoe-rake combo with a long handle. I have a Cutco pruner and hand tools. These, along with a pointed shovel, get the job done for my big vegetable garden and borders.  (Goldilocks)
A good knife.  For me, the best gardening knife I have found is a Spyderco Tasman - a serrated, rustproof hawkbill blade with a FRN (fiberglass reinforced nylon) handle (  The serrated hawkbill blade laughs at weeds, vines, and small branches - while opening any bag or burlap rootball covering with ease. It is such a natural extension to your hand and I am lost outside without it. (Tim_McD
One who is adept with either a circle or a hula aka stirrup hoe can easily maintain a weed free garden. It is a surprisingly underknown but essential tool.
Three of the tools that I rely upon frequently, in addition to several of those on Laurie Ann's list, are (1) the cobrahead ( for weeding in tight spaces (I prefer the long handled version as I'm usually working on a slope and it saves my back), (2) the heart spade from Red Pig tools (, which is great for breaking up clay and hard pan during planting, and (3) a Cape Cod weeder, again from Red Pig ( All of these are made in the US, and are very high quality. What surprised me when buying foreign-made garden tools like hoes from a big box store is that they are unusable without about 1 hour with a sharp file to give them a useful edge. I can't decide if this is an issue of poor supplier quality or fear of product liability litigation by the big box store. Either way, it's slightly annoying. I did not have this problem with any of the tools mentioned above; all arrived with an edge, ready to use in the garden. 
Greatest tool for a vegetable garden and several thousand convicts at Huntsville and Angola will agree, a forged eye hoe. I have three in my shed. (The Govteach)


  1. Hear hear! Yes, three cheers for the “surprisingly underknown but essential” stirrup hoe. Our vegetable garden is 6,000 square feet. Once we’re into July the heavy duty cultivation is behind us. One can, from then on, keep a very clean garden. Breeze through with the stirrup hoe a mere two or three hours a week. It’s as simple as mopping the floor. Git one!

  2. That is an excellent list. My little Felco nippers get a ton of use. I would add a Tomahawk hoe (I got mine through and small and large pruning saws. The Tomahawk uses extra weight in the head. I have a pair of Japanese scissors with big handles and short blades that are great at dead heading. In addition to Felco, I have loved the Sandvik items I have picked up over the years.

  3. Would not be without my Woodman's Pal! It never lets me down. Thanks so very much!

  4. I'm tempted to say that our best garden tool is the phone. It lets us call a local contractor and tell him that it's time to come and clean up the yard.

    But we do have a few tools that we use regularly. Ames shovels (several kinds), two bypass loppers, a couple of smaller bypass cutters, various trowels and weeders. After some high winds recently I'm looking into a small chainsaw — any suggestions? Electric preferred, but gas would be OK.

    1. Chainsaws - I've never used the battery operated chainsaws but might consider one in the future. I love my Echo chainsaw but Stihl makes a good one. Don't purchase from the big box stores. Find a local " turf and garden" supply store that has product knowledge and can make repairs if necessary. I'm sure youtube has comparison videos that will help you decide.

  5. It is indeed necessary to invest in quality gardening tools. Many of my tools are inherited from my grandfather and they must be at least 60 years old and of no particular brand. I think he purchased them at a local drugstore back in the 50's. I use my grandfather's hoes to weed the gardens and plant rows of seeds.
    My favorite garden tools are Bahco P51-F hedge shears, Bahco Laplander folding pruning saw and Felco pruners. I have a Corona folding razor tooth saw that I use to score root balls but I don't recommend purchasing anything made by Corona these days. I always carry my Haws watering cans with me (titanium w/wood handle). I keep a small copper Haws watering can indoors. I love the Velcro one-wrap garden ties to support my tomatoes or tall flowers and it's reusable.
    A good solid heavy spade is important but I can't remember what brand mine is.
    I also like my barn shovel or scoop shovel to help pick up clippings.

  6. A "poacher's spade" (aka rabbiting spade) is great for transplanting (not just purloining his lordship's coneys); formery from Smith & Hawken if you can find them used. A folding "hawkbill" knife (blade curved in a hook) is very handy; try Opinel brand from France. Also, learn to sharpen your tools yourself and they'll return the favor. An army-surplus "folding entrenching tool" is great to keep in the car for spontaneous landscaping adventures while out and about.

  7. Years ago we were with some friends on their boat anchored just to the left of that island beach when a microburst hit with sustained seventy knots of wind and heavy rain. We dragged anchor, it tore the dodger right off its hinges and swamped the dinghy. We're having lunch with them tomorrow and will tell them about your site. Meanwhile yes, t's getting to be gardening weather up here.

  8. Wolf Garten RS4000 anvil secateurs. Superb for pruning and trimming hardy branches and woody stems.

  9. The classic tools never go out of style. Thank you!


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